Tuesday, March 30, 2010

#53 - Seafood Sausage, Rice Cakes and Bok Choy With Two Powerhouse $12 Wines

When we woke up on Tuesday, good food along with a relaxing family visit wasn't something that was possible in our wildest dreams.

Along with tasty pork tenderloin, asparagus, roasted sweet potato and sweet onions accompanied by an olive oil-mustard sauce with the family, we had this:

Food: Seafood sausage, rice cakes, bok choy and a panang curry-chipotle-coconut sauce with ponzu and pickled ginger

I think we found a stellar, store-bought, quick meal.

Check that. Not 'think'. Know.

Holy crap! Who knew?

Along with the $12 wines, this was in the ballpark of a $17 meal total for both of us.

Trader Joe's seafood sausage ($5 for 4) and rice cakes ($3 for 8).

The seafood sausage is a bit of a revelation. Five freakin' bucks. Encased shrimp, scallops, and whitefish-y type goodness. Wow, these are good.

The sauce tied it all together. One jar of Trader Joe's chipotle salsa ($3), one can of coconut milk ($1) half-can of Panaeng curry paste and one lime ($1) reduced down and garnished generously with cilantro. Seriously spicy but just when we thought the heat was going to become intolerable, it tailed off gracefully.

Bok choy ($2) with sesame oil and ponzu drizzle and pickled ginger on the side ($2/jar).

This was a mix-and-match meal, especially with the pickled ginger. With the seafood sausage and ginger, the ever-so-slight fishiness that comes with even the best seafood was muted and the sweetness, particularly the distinctive scallop sweetness, came out. The heat in the sauce intensified the flavor of the seafood as well while the rice cakes served as a great vehicle for sopping up the sauce. But rice cakes with ponzu is tried-and-true goodness as well. Versatile and delicious little buggers, those.

Simply put, we found a meal that can be on hand at all times, is dirt cheap, takes mere minutes to prepare and tastes stupid delicious.

Given the fact that the two wines we had with it cost $12 each, pair so beautifully with it while being available all over town, it's almost wrong.

Wine: 2008 Torres Viña Esmeralda ($12 - Binny's) & 2009 Crios Torrontes ($12 - WDC)

We started out with the Torres Viña Esmeralda, a wine that's always been a great QPR wine. A mix of Moscatel and Gewürtztraminer, the Torres is a wine made with a deft hand. So much would seem to possibly go wrong with such a blend - too much sweetness, fruit out of balance - but nothing does. Off-dry with a subtle kicks of sweet fruit showing apricot and peach with rose petals and nice acidity. Zippy, borderline pretty and a beautiful wine on its own. A great gift wine. Everyone will like it.

The Crios Torrontes, though, won out. All spring flowers on the nose and the palate in a flat-out stunning way. Fruit is in the background with this one, showing some pear, maybe some apple and a hint of spice. Crisp and dry with a welcoming acidity. It's a wine that demands another sip right after you've taken a sip. All flowers and flowers with more flowers. Where the Torres left off, the Crios picked up the baton and went a few steps more towards near-perfect beauty for the price.

Though always safe bets in the price range any year, these two wines weren't this good in their previous vintage. Highly recommended on both fronts.

Pairing Score: 93 for the Torres - 97 for the Crios

Like the Frey-Sohler Muscat pairing a few weeks ago, there's something wonderful about a light, Asian-inspired seafood meal that brings a little heat paired a well-crafted floral white showing nice structure.

We cooed a little over the Torres pairing with the touch of bright, light sweetness and acidity in the wine offering a refreshing counterbalance to the heat. But to repeat, the floral aspects in the Crios were even better.

And the best bite of the night with both wines, and probably one of the best bites of food we've had in awhile, was the seafood sausage with pickled ginger washed down with the both wines, particularly the Crios. Good freakin' stuff.

$17 for the food for two, $12 for a bottle of one of the wines, 20-30 minutes of prep time (10 minutes active) and you have a $29 meal for two that beats anything Rachel Ray pumps out.

And hey, it's "semi-homemade" yet blows any of the crap that Sandra Lee pushes on the unsuspecting public out of the water.

A few notes on other wines:

2005 Kante Malvasia ($10 - Binny's) - Fruit was almost dead (hints of pear, maybe lemon) but it still had its moments. Carnations on the back-end with a viscous quality that was quite nice. Lost its vibrancy being five years old and not made for aging but it wasn't unpleasant. Malvasia piques Mrs. Ney's curiosity so we might try this one again in a younger vintage.

2007 Fiddlehead Cellars Fiddlestix Pinot Noir ($14 Whole Foods) - Boring pinot noir with not much to offer beyond the very basic varietal flavors. Dirty sock quality and a hit of rust dust with a lunch charcuterie plate. We're done with Fiddlehead, even the sauvignon blanc. Just doesn't do much for us.

2004 Chameleon Charbono ($7 - Binny's) - Dead, dead, dead. All liquid twigs and earth. Bought to try a grape variety we've never had and is pretty rare in California (only 90 acres left). Known as Bonarda in Argentina, we might give the grape another go if on sale and younger.

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